Transformation and Healing in Latin America 2023

Enjoy a taste of two teaching tours in Latin America.

In the spring 2023. Plum Village nuns and monks offerred practice and teaching to 6 Latin American countries. This trip consists of ten monastics that were divided into two groups. One group went to Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador, and another group to Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. Even though all of the countries are facing many challenges. The Order of Interbeing members and other sangha members still dedicate their energy and time to invite monastics to share the teaching and practice in order to build strength to go through all difficulties, personal, family, career, society, and country.

Please take some mindful breaths and enjoy your journey with us on the Latin America Tour 2023.

Nourishing The Energy of Mindfulness in Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador

Three brothers from Plum Village France and Two Sisters from Deer Park Monastery practiced and shared the Dharma in Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador for 60 days from March 1 to April 28, 2023.

In this tour,  we were able to reach more than 3800 people. It was very moving to see the transformation that happened in each session that was organized by the local community (local sangha). We practiced with the business and leaders group, educators, parents, mental health professionals and institutions, a University, peace activists, a Cancer Hospital for children, social workers, young adults, children, teenagers, and people from all backgrounds.

We organized and offered six retreats which varied from two to five days in length. They were opportunities for the participants to stop and pause from the rhythm of their daily life, to have the opportunity to come back to themselves, recognize their happiness and suffering, cultivate peace, hope, and courage to face personal challenges, family, and also the challenges that they face in term of political and social situations in each country.

Here are some sharing from the monastic brothers and sisters in this trip:

Sister Kinh Nghiem

It was an honor for me to be invited to such a rich and nourishing trip.  I am humbled by the practice of each individual, new and long-time practitioners.  It is an “awe-spiring” experience I feel we should have at least once as a monastic to be able to see the interconnectedness between one’s practice and the practice of others.  This is nothing like being in the comfort of the monastery.  It is a direct hands-on experience of engaged Buddhism that we have learned from Thay.  I am grateful for having had this opportunity to connect with people from all walks of life, young and young at heart.  To be able to work on my own transformation with every breath, every step and to share that experience with everyone.  With every encounter, I felt the embrace and the love.  We shared so much joy and tears, and so much looking deeply together to understand.  If you were to ask me if I would do it again, my answer would be one hundred times, yes! 

I would like to also express my gratitude to the monastic sisters at Deer Park Monastery, the greater Plum Village Sangha, and to Thay for trusting us and allowing us to fulfill our aspirations of “offering joy to one person in the morning, and alleviating the pain of another in the afternoon”.

Br. Troi Bao Tang

It’s a privilege for me to be able to join this tour with the support of the Plum Village sangha, to offer the teachings and to deepen my own practice as a monastic, and to continue the work of my spiritual and blood ancestors’ legacy and aspiration.

I feel nourished by the generosity, love, and care of the organizers of each country, brotherhood, and sisterhood among the monastics, and the happiness of all participants. As our teacher, Thay, always reminds us the importance of the sangha. I feel lucky to have sangha, together as a sangha we can offer a lot to the world.

Br. Troi Dao Phuong

The happiness of creating and sharing spaces where people can come and practice together is indescribable.

For me this trip to Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador was this: offer people an opportunity to take a break from their busy everyday lives and touch and cultivate a space where it was possible to reconnect with themselves, nurture peace and joy and understand and heal some wounds.

So much gratitude for the immense work done by the various organizing teams and local Sanghas in their respective countries. Their great dedication in organizing this tour was a source of great inspiration for many people. Thanks to them, it was possible for everyone to come together and practice as a spiritual family, as brothers and sisters on the same path, supporting each other and deepening our own practice.

Knowing that the most beautiful gift we can offer to both ourselves and others is our true presence, during these two months, we gave ourselves this gift. During each practice session, we listened to each other deeply, learned how to use loving words, learned how to take care of our strong emotions, and how to touch the seed of joy and happiness. We were there for each other.

So many seeds of love and compassion were planted during this journey and many flowers have already bloomed.

Sr. Mai Trang

I am filled with deep gratitude toward all the Sisters of Deer Park Monastery for placing their trust in me and allowing me to join this two-month tour.  During my time away from the home monastery, I gained an incredible amount of understanding, not only about the people and culture of Latin America but also about myself and my monastic sibling companions.  I felt a deep level of trust and siblinghood among us monastics and enjoyed the peace and harmony we cultivated with the local Sanghas of Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, and Galapagos. 

Gratitude to everyone for your hard work bringing the Latin American people the public talks, retreats, and practice tools appropriate for their lives and socioeconomic situations of this time.  I feel that people in this part of the world are so ready for the teachings we are sharing.  Their collective awakening is possible if we continue to nourish them in these ways.  

By welcoming us into their homes and offering us their support, our dear sangha brothers and sisters in those countries have helped me touch humility, kindness, solidarity, and gratitude for humanity.  I often reminded myself that any accomplishments and blessings which came our way were simply because of Thầy’s boundless love and many sacrifices during his lifetime.  

It was a great joy to experience the joining of monastic and lay Sanghas as they continue Thay so well.  This has strengthened my vows as a nun to spread Thay’s teachings and practices as best I can and embody the Dharma I aspire to.  May we all radiate the energy which will help us and many others touch humanity, peace, love, and freedom.

Some sharings from local Sangha 

Andrés  – Quito Sangha, Ecuador 

Ecuador is a small South American country that suffers the effects of poverty and post-pandemic violence. During the last years, we have found an oasis with the visits of the monastics of Plum Village. We all find in their teachings and practices a vital force to continue with our sangha.

Carolina – Galápagos Sangha, Ecuador

The Galapagos Sangha is a young sangha, that started practicing after the first Plum Village monastics visit in 2017. Since then, whenever we can host a retreat with the monastics, the sangha comes alive and more people join in and the practice becomes more joyful. This year was not an exception, with the visit of the brothers and sisters doing the Latin-American tour and experiencing a retreat together and public talks, I see how many people were deeply touched. 

On our first sangha meeting after the retreat, many people said how they were still processing the transformation experienced during the last three days. Even though Thay never came to this land, the brothers and sisters brought alive his legacy embodied in their presence. For the ones that lead the sangha, it’s such an honor to be part of this transformation helping create a bridge to bring the practice to our community. We are deeply thankful for your presence!

Gabriela – Quito Sangha, Ecuador

The visit of the monastics to Ecuador was an amazing opportunity for our local sangha to come together. To me, their yearly visit is something that I really look forward to since their kindness and compassion are a fantastic way to water my aspiration to continue with my practice and to share my stability with those around me.

Alejandra – Medellin Sangha, Colombia 

Serving, practicing and transforming:

“The way out is in” was the name of our tour with the monastics in Colombia.  It was three weeks in which more than a thousand souls were able to stop, breathe, silence, smile and look inside.  For me, it was a very revealing opportunity: serving the sangha, practicing and transforming my suffering at the same time. Somehow these three ingredients were planted inside me during the entire tour in Colombia, and they have brought a lot of internal strength, calm, and happiness to my life. I realize the joy of creating bonds of brotherhood in the sangha, not only through practice but also through daily experiences that allow us to share, get to know each other in-depth, and feel like a true family.  I feel very moved to see the transformation of people at the end of each activity: public talk, workshops, or retreats. Seeing people’s faces loosen and relax, how their eyes shine and smile as they receive the Dharma rain. My heart continues to shine with gratitude to Thay, to all the support the monastics gave us, and to my Colombian sangha.  Dreaming from now on to be able to bring them back to Colombia and continue planting seeds of peace in our territory.

Camilo – Bogota Sangha, Colombia 

 There were a lot of smiles and tears in the Dharma talks, family sharings, beginning anew, 5 MT presentation and even a clown show. Many Colombians had the chance to get to know and deepen into the practice to transform our lives into one more compassionate and lovely._

I can tell that many persons could have the chance to stop, breathe consciously, meditate, and heal during these two retreats. For me it was another opportunity to practice, to learn from the Buddha and Thay directly from our 5 elder monastic siblings who incarnate their essence, to build sisterhood and brotherhood in the Sangha, to share the Dharma with my family and the Children’s Program and to keep walking beautifully in this path.

Iris – Corazon del Zen Sangha, Mexico

During March, in Mexico, we again had the opportunity to participate in the Latin American tour with sister monastics from Plum Village and Deer Park. For the community, it was an extraordinary opportunity to deepen our spiritual practice and share with those who did not know the tradition that there are gentle ways to connect with ourselves and others on a deeper level. 

Living with the monks and nuns allowed us to develop a greater appreciation for the simple life, appreciating the little things in daily life, living with less, and accepting what life offers us without resistance, centered on spirituality.

The participants expressed that this tour allowed them to learn tools that they can put into practice in their daily lives to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as to improve their ability to concentrate and solve problems. They will also seek to improve interpersonal relationships, fostering empathy and compassion, and promote greater awareness in the present moment.

As a result of the tour, many of these people have committed to practice on a regular basis by joining the existing sanghas in our country to share the practice of mindfulness.

Rogelio – Corazon del Zen Sangha, Mexico 

Last March, the Mexican Sangha had the privilege of having the visit of five monastics. After the pandemic, our Sangha had been struggling to stay active and returning to face-to-face sessions. Thanks to the freshness and inspiration of the brothers and sisters, the Mexican Sangha is now active again, two new groups were opened and there are two new candidates to take the 14 Mindfulness Trainings. Undoubtedly, having the strength of the fourfold Sangha contributes to watering our seeds of happiness, freshness, and collective awakening, helping to sustain the Plum Village community.

The local sangha (community) has been doing its best to organize and support the people in their country, to bring peace, hope, and courage in the midst of challenges, violence, poverty, and social injustice. In this trip, we also had a chance to give some workshops for the local sangha about sangha building & administration training.

We hope that we can continue to support the countries in Latin America such as Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador.

Photo gallery, Teaching videos and Activity details :

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May all beings be happy, be liberated and light in the body and mind.

Healing and transformation in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile

Where did you go? What activities were offered? How many people attended?

We went first to Brazil for three weeks, to two different places; Santa Catarina in the south welcomed by the sangha Despertar and then moved to Sao Paulo with the sangha plena consciência. 

Then we went to Argentina for twelve days with the sangha del Buen aire in Buenos-aires and ended in Chile for fourteen days in Santiago with the sanghas Mudita (wake up) and Vitacura.

In every place we offered a four to five day retreat, some activities with the local sangha (for example, mindfulness days, sharings, beginning anew), some public events in university auditoriums and workshops with educators/teachers, wake up, caretakers and medics, and social workers

In total around 270 people attended the retreats and more than 200 received the 5 Mindfulness Trainings transmission. For the other events, more than 1300 people participated. 

What left the strongest impressions on you?

Their intimate connection with Thay of the people we met, and their aspiration to practice mindfulness. They feel very connected to Plum Village Tradition and have practiced as sanghas for many years already. 

They also very much needed the monastic presence and teachings to revitalize the sanghas after the pandemic. They were especially very touched and grateful for the spirit of freshness and joy we offered.

Thanks to the quality of mindfulness generated, many of them could share their suffering and they asked for concrete practices to handle strong emotions (such as despair, anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness), take care of their relationships, and cultivate joy and happiness in their daily life.

Most of the people who came to the retreats and events were educators, social workers, psychologists, therapists, teachers, lawyers, and activists. They came to take care of themselves to be able to offer a better quality of presence and love to all the people they are supporting. So in fact, we were very aware that our mindful presence, joy, and sharings will reach out to many people in South America, probably thousands.

Feeling that we have so many friends on the path of practice is a great joy and nourishment for us. Our monastic aspiration has been clearly fulfilled and strengthened.

Were there any stories of transformation? 

Especially in the retreats we could see a lot of transformations individually and collectively. Every time they could touch joy again and surrender to the powerful energy of the spiritual family. 

We were very happy to see them leaving the retreats with bright eyes, big smiles, and relaxed faces and bodies. 

Many have been able to share deep suffering, cry and start to breathe again seeing a way out. For example, one woman had lost her brother three years ago and could for the first time share her pain and start to grieve. After her sharing in the dharma sharing family, she was so surprised and touched by the power of the loving and embracing collective energy. The next day she was really physically another person, renewed.

Another young woman who went through a strong depression with suicidal thoughts (during Covid), couldn’t come back to the sangha and felt so lonely. Only when she heard about the monastics coming, she found the courage to join and open up again to understanding and love. She came to the retreat and all the events during the week after. 

A man came to drive his wife to the retreat the first evening. He was supposed to leave the next morning but somehow he couldn’t and stayed for 5 days. He shared his joy during the final Be-in and how much he has been touched and grateful for this amazing experience.

How was it different from retreats at Plum Village Monastery?

It’s much more intimate and we have more time to be with the people. We also connect deeply with the core members of the sangha and even share a home with them. We are closer to the reality of the people and we develop our ability to adapt to any kind of situation, personality, relationship, cultural habit, food, place, bed, and so on!

That makes us more humble and generates a huge sense of gratitude and connections.

What challenges among the group and how was it overcome? 

Being five monastics on the road for six weeks it’s a great opportunity to know each other deeply and to learn how to support and complement each other with understanding and care. All together we did our best to value the presence and contribution of everyone and at the same time to embrace the difficulties that could manifest.

We could generate and maintain a beautiful and strong sense of harmony and togetherness. That was very often expressed by the lay friends.

This kind of dharma tour definitely expands our hearts and our capacity to embrace and love everyone no matter what kind of suffering is revealed on the way.

What are your aspirations and hopes for the region?

I wish them to continue to practice as a sangha and to have the opportunity to receive the monastics at least every two years. They really deserve it!

Thank you so much to the sangha builders in those countries. They are real Bodhisattvas and their commitments are a source of inspiration for us.

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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